Monday, November 30, 2015

12 THREE New Release Giveaways plus Author Interviews for 11/30 - 12/6

As November draws to a close it's hard to believe the final month of 2015 begins tomorrow! There are a lot of fantastic books releasing this month, including NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST, ALL WE LEFT BEHIND, and VIRTUALLY IN LOVE, of which we are giving away a copy each.

Happy Reading!
Lindsey, Martina, Sam, Jocelyn, Erin, Lisa, Shelly, Susan, Elizabeth, Kristin, Sandra and Anisaa

Saturday, November 28, 2015

0 Kate McGovern, author of RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES, on learning how to structure a book

We're thrilled to have Kate McGovern with us to share more about her debut novel RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES.

Kate, what was your inspiration for writing RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES?

I came across a news article in 2007 about a young woman who was wrestling with the same decision as Rose--should she get tested for Huntington's or not. Her family didn't want her to take the test. Ultimately she did get tested, and learned that she had the mutation. I was really moved by the way she articulated how that knowledge affected her life choices, her aspirations for her future. It stuck with me, and almost six years later I started writing RULES.

How long did you work on RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES?

I started writing the draft in 2012, but I only wrote the very first page, and then I put it down for a year. When I picked it back up, I wrote the first draft in about 6 months. I revised for a few months after that, and then signed with my agent. We sold the book about 14 months after I started writing it in earnest. But like I said, I'd been percolating on the subject matter for almost six years before I even wrote down a word.

Friday, November 27, 2015

3 Joshua David Bellin on Unreliable Narrators, Recycling Characters, and Mashup Pitches

We're thrilled to welcome author Joshua David Bellin to the blog today as our monthly Ask a Pub Pro! Joshua is here to answer your questions on what exactly is an unreliable narrator and how to craft one, how to creatively recycle character types, and the pros and cons of using Book X meets Book Y in pitches. He's also giving away a signed copy of his recent release, SURVIVAL COLONY 9, with the winner also to receive a copy of the sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS, when it comes out next year. Be sure to check it out below!

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Ask a Pub Pro: on Unreliable Narrators, Recycling Characters, and Mashup Pitches by Joshua David Bellin

Hi readers! I’m thrilled to be here on Adventures in YA Publishing to answer some of your questions. Enjoy, and at the end of the post, check out the cool giveaway I’m offering!

1. I keep seeing agents and editors ask for unreliable narrators. I know a bit about what this is but am not real clear. Can you explain what an unreliable narrator is and why they are so popular?

Unreliable narrators come in all forms, but the basic idea is that they’re narrators the reader can’t fully trust. This might be because the narrator lacks important information: for example, the narrator might be suffering from memory loss. Or the narrator might be a young child whose perceptions of the world are immature. The narrator might have a mental illness that leads her/him to misrepresent reality. And so on.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

1 Asking Better Questions by Eric Lindstrom

Eric Lindstrom worked in the interactive entertainment industry before writing his debut novel, Not If I See You First (Coming Dec 1), gaining a unique insight of storytelling from the gaming industry. Today, he's on the blog talking about how asking the right questions can make your story come to life. 

Asking Better Questions by Eric Lindstrom

The fourth doctor of the TV series Doctor Who was my childhood hero. (He still is, but that’s a different story.) In an episode I watched as a teen, he said, “Answers are easy – it’s asking the right questions which is hard.” It was my first exposure to this idea, and it stuck with me.

Over time this perspective became a very useful tool. When I get stuck and can’t find an answer, stepping back and examining my questions often leads to a solution. This process proves itself useful in many different ways, but here I’ll focus on a key example.

Starting out as a writer, I sometimes found myself blocked, wondering, “What should happen next?” I came to understand (over years, not one Saturday afternoon) how that was the wrong question. Tornados happen. Wildebeest migrations happen. But the vast majority of events in a story don’t just happen. Characters make them happen. “What happens next?” is appropriate for the reader to ask, not the writer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5 The Sparkling Appeal of Twilight: An Essay on Being Different, Being Transformed, and Being Connected -- A Guest Post by Jes Simmons

During a panel I did recently at the Virginia Children's Book Festival on Fairy Tales and Gothic Novels, I mentioned what an important role Twilight had played in my daughter's life and therefore in my own writing career. I expressed my opinion that people often miss the true genius and importance of the novel. Someone in the audience agreed with me, and came up to have me sign Compulsion afterwards, and thus I had the very great pleasure of meeting Jes Simons, who lectures at Longwood University and teaches Twilight to her freshman students. We had a long chat about both books, and about the very special perspective that she has on Twilight as a reader and a teacher. Long before we were done, I knew I had to ask her to write about her experiences. I'm honored to be able to share that with you today!

The Sparkling Appeal of Twilight 

An Essay on Being Different, Being Transformed, and Being Connected

A Guest Post by Jes Simmons

Early in Twilight Bella Swan admits, “I didn’t relate well to people my age.  Maybe the truth was that I didn’t relate to people, period” (Meyer 11).  Many of us gave a collective “Yes” to this because Bella was voicing our innermost secrets and fears. Suddenly we could breathe easier because Stephenie Meyer gave us a relatable and reliable narrator who, like us, didn’t fit in and never truly felt at ease in the world.  And when Bella later speculated, “Maybe there was a glitch in my brain” (11), she completely had us on her side.  Bella is one of us, an awkward and out-of-step outsider who just wants to find a place to fit in and be accepted.  She finds this with the Cullen family (and with us).
The appeal of Twilight to me is not the love story of a precocious and self-sacrificing 17-year-old girl who falls in love with a strikingly handsome vampire who will always look 17.  Nor is it the action-packed vampire chase and fight that propel the book to its conclusion.  What draws me to Twilight is a unique connection with Bella and the Cullen family that comes from being a reader who literally is different from most other people, a reader who doesn’t fit in with peers or the dominant culture.  Twilight “sings” to me as a male-to-female transsexual who finds affinity with both Bella and the octet of vampires in the Cullen family.

Bring Different

Like Bella in school, I was acutely aware of how different I was from my classmates, both in body and mind. Despite growing up in sunny Phoenix, Arizona, Bella’s skin wouldn’t tan.  Out of step with her peers, Bella stumbled and tripped where others easily walked. Growing up as a gender dysphoric boy, I was painfully aware of behaving and looking more effeminate than masculine.  A group of girls in seventh grade used to follow me down the hall, commenting loudly on how I carried my books and walked like a girl (and their words prophetically caused me to stumble).  They even called me “Alice.”  (Ironically, I now love being a “Team Alice” Twihard!).

Monday, November 23, 2015

16 New Release Giveaway and Author Interviews for 11/23-11/29

As we begin the last full week of November, it's getting harder and harder to believe the end of 2015 is almost here. To all our American readers: we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. To all those doing NaNoWriMo: you're so close! However many words you've written, we're so proud of you. And to those looking for something new to read: we bring you this week's new release giveaway.

Happy Reading!
Lindsey, Martina, Sam, Jocelyn, Erin, Lisa, Shelly, Susan, Elizabeth, Kristin, Sandra and Anisaa

Sunday, November 22, 2015

1 Best of AYAP: Scenes & Pacing

Pacing is one of the trickiest elements of writing. A somewhat elusive concept, and one difficult to get right, it can be easy to notice that pacing feels 'off,' but difficult to know how to fix it. Similarly, when plotting a novel, it can be difficult to find that perfect balance of scenes that pushes the story forward.

Many of the posts below approach pacing and scenes from an objective standpoint, pulling the concepts apart and assigning concrete ways that troubleshooting or plotting can be approached. Whether you're approaching pacing and scene choice from the plotting or revising side of the writer's desk, there's a wealth of information collected in the posts below.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

3 Christopher Pike, author of STRANGE GIRL, on hard work being the key to getting published

We are honored to have Christopher Pike join us to share more about his latest novel STRANGE GIRL.

Christopher, what was your inspiration for writing STRANGE GIRL?

If you read the dedication of Strange Girl, it says: “For Abir, who told me to write this book.” Abir is my girlfriend. We’ve been together 15 years, and she is without a doubt the love of my life. Naturally, by this time, I never write a book without talking to Abir about it. Well last March, 2014, we were talking late one night about what I should write next and Abir said I should write a love story. And I said, “A love story about what?” That was when Abir gave me perhaps the best advice when she said -- “That’s the key. You don’t want to know what it’s about. Find out as you write it. Just have a boy meet a mysterious girl at the beginning of the school year and go from there.”

At first I dismissed the idea. I’m rather proud of how cleverly I plot my stories and Abir was basically telling me to drop all my cleverness and just feel my way along. Just put myself in the shoes of the main character, Fred, and write what he felt.

And that was what I did. That’s how Aja, the heroine of Strange Girl, was created, totally out of thin air.

Friday, November 20, 2015

1 1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens January 2nd!

I am sad to say that our 1st 5 Pages November Workshop has come to an end. We had such a great group of talented and enthusiastic writers! And wow – did they revise! A big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, author Jenn Thorne and agent Kirsten Carleton! They both provided terrific comments and suggestions. And as always, thank you to all of our fabulous permanent mentors! Martina Boone, the workshop founder and a permanent mentor, had her second book in the HEIRS OF WATSON ISLAND trilogy released. As her critique partner, I can tell you that PERSUASION is fabulous!

Since December is a busy month and our mentors are struggling with deadlines, we have decided to take a hiatus for this month. We will re-open the workshop in January, on Saturday January 2nd. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. Click here to get the rules. I will post when it opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman), with the hashtag #1st5pages.

We usually fill up in under a minute, so get those pages!


0 Feminist Storytelling by Elizabeth Hall Magill

You are all in for a real treat today. Elizabeth Hall Magill is here to share a very thoughtful post on how to craft a story with a genuine feminist perspective, which for Elizabeth means getting into the very heart of a character, unvarnished by societal assumptions. I especially loved her point on the rich space between the narrator and character -- the bold there is mine. Welcome Elizabeth!

How to Craft a Story with a Feminist Perspective: A Craft of Writing Post by Elizabeth Hall Magill

Feminist Storytelling

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, when he won Longwood University’s John Dos Passos prize. Mr. Alexie offered to read the first chapter of my novel, which I was about to revise. I knew my revision would be a feminist one—it would include an awareness of class, race, and gender privilege that reflected my recent work—but I wasn’t sure what shape it would take. Mr. Alexie gave me the perfect place to begin, a line on the sixth page of my manuscript: Seth didn’t hate his father’s money—he just hated his father.

I would never have thought to begin with that line. But when I considered it, I realized the line framed the story perfectly—the novel is about a group of UVA students struggling with loss, grief, and growth. A story that unravels from a fulcrum of white, upper-middle-class privilege. To begin with a line that acknowledges that privilege meant I was off and running with my feminist revision.

But why a feminist revision? And what does that mean, in a practical sense?

In the four years since I’d written the novel, I’d gone from believing the word feminist was tainted with disdain for men and condemnation for women to understanding that it held freedom. Feminist writing taught me why motherhood was harder than it had to be and why I never felt pretty enough. It exposed my own assumptions to me—assumptions I made because I was white and middle-class and hadn’t had to think beyond front-page headlines. It allowed me to find sisters I thought I’d never have and release cultural baggage that weighed me down.

I needed to bring this awakening to my fiction—I needed more characters in my book, from more backgrounds. I needed to cut through the assumptions I’d made unconsciously. I needed my protagonist—a young woman named for a goddess—to fully understand the meaning of self-ownership, and claim it. I needed to help my readers see what I’d seen.

But how to do all that and remain true to good storytelling? No one likes to read a book that feels like a treatise. And many people have unexamined assumptions as a result of living in a patriarchy, just like I did. Exposing these assumptions can be a real-turn off, and painful to boot. Sure, literature is supposed to make us face pain, as well as entertain us and make us think. But how to do that in a story, and let the story lead?

The key is tucked into the space between narrator and character.

In nonfiction, the words are always and only mine. But in fiction, the words sometimes come from the mouths of people who are nothing like me—people who are, and must be, completely separate from me. Regardless of the story’s point of view, the writer is shaping it, making choices about what, where, when, how, and why.

In this space between narrator and character, the writer can show the reader characters and events from a perspective that the characters don’t have. This is the perfect place to play with ways to bring a feminist consciousness to the story. And I’ve found a few strategies that work well:

Expose Assumptions

A patriarchy is full of assumptions about people—poor people are lazy, no one group of people is more privileged than another, and all women experience sexism in the same way, to name a few. These assumptions are a form of bias, shaping our perceptions of each other on an unconscious level.

By allowing characters to be fully themselves within the context of their daily lives—a bisexual woman after a breakup, a black teenage boy out for a walk—you can expose the harmful assumptions of patriarchy. The feminist term for living daily life while dealing with whatever patriarchy sends your way is lived experience. And fiction is great at depicting lived experience.

You can also allow a character to demonstrate an assumption and then counter it directly, either through the character’s growth or through other characters. Alexie does this at several points in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian—Junior is constantly realizing what assumptions he’s made about the white kids at his new school, and exposing the ones they’ve made about him.

Play Against Stereotype

Stereotypes are an insidious form of bias, and they’re prevalent in our media. Stereotypes reinforce the assumptions of patriarchy—the dumb blonde, the asexual Asian man and the compliant Asian woman, the hypersexual angry black woman and the stoic black housekeeper—our culture has a ton of them, and they all negatively impact the people they claim to portray. So play against them—create characters that don’t fit into their stereotypical boxes.

The writers for the movie Big Hero 6 have this one down-pat: each of the main characters plays against stereotype while poking fun at it. You can play against stereotype in subtle ways, and with minor characters, as well: in my revision, I needed a surgeon, and she became a black woman rather than the usual older white man. Another character has shown up, a male theater major—maybe he’ll be straight, or bi. Maybe someone will think he’s gay, and he’ll have fun with the assumption.

Teach, Don’t Preach

This is just another way of saying show, don’t tell. Your readers don’t want a feminist lecture—they want a story with a heartbeat. So give them one. One of my favorite ways to teach feminist consciousness is by showing female desire.

The sexual perspective—in movies, in advertisements, in books, in short stories, in poems—is overwhelmingly heterosexual and male. So mix it up—make a woman’s heart beat fast as she is near someone she’s attracted to. Describe the gut-wrenching lust, the biceps or breasts, the gorgeous eyes, the sunlight on hair. Let desire be human, and centered in the female.

I’ve done this in my own work, describing my protagonist’s reaction when she meets her future boyfriend. And I love the way Martina Boone portrays female desire in Compulsion—our experience of Eight is firmly rooted in Barrie’s physical reactions. When we see feminist principles—the female gaze, and female self-love and self-ownership—in action, they become normalized.

This is the beauty of feminist fiction: it exposes us to ourselves while telling us a story we can’t put down. It gives us—all of us—back to ourselves. And it does so not by lecturing, but by using the space between narrator and character—a space that, like everything about storytelling, is part logic and part magic.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Hall Magill has been blogging about feminist issues at Yo Mama since 2011–posts have been featured on BlogHer (Spotlight BlogHer) and Miss Representation’s Sexy or Sexism campaign. Her essay "Jesus and Sophia" appears in the anthology Whatever Works, edited by Trista Hendren and Pat Daly, and her work has appeared in Role Reboot and on the news site .Mic.

In addition to revising her novel and writing short fiction, Elizabeth is currently researching and writing a nonfiction book entitled American Sexism: Questions and Answers. You can find her blog on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @LizHallMagill.

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers

Thursday, November 19, 2015

0 Agent Anjali Singh of APL On Her Wish List, Querying, & Chai.

Anjali Singh started her career in publishing in 1996 as a literary scout. Most recently Editorial Director at Other Press, she has also worked as an editor at Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Vintage Books. She is is best known for having championed Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis after stumbling across it on a visit to Paris. She has always been drawn to the thrill of discovering new writers, and among the literary novelists whose careers she helped launch are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Samantha Hunt, Preeta Samarasan, Zoe Ferraris, Victoria Patterson, Natalie Bakopoulos, Enid Shomer and Brigid Pasulka. As a literary agent, she is looking for new voices, character-driven fiction or non-fiction works that reflect an engagement with the world around us, literary thrillers, memoirs, YA literature and graphic novels. She is a member of the International Committee of the Brooklyn Book Festival.

1. What is it about a manuscript that excites you?

A voice that I instantly want to spend time with; clean, clear, propulsive writing; a subject I’ve never encountered before!

2. What is on your wish list?

More books by minority voices, and books about all those hyphenated-American and international experiences we still see so underrepresented in books and other mainstream media. I don’t have any control over this, but I’d love to see more editors of color in general.

3. What are some of your favorite authors/books and why do you love them?

I feel like such a fraud having a favorite author after so many years in publishing, where I’ve so rarely had a chance to read more than one book (and often only in MS) of a writer I admire. But what made me fall in love with books and reading were Laura Ingalls Wilder (whose books I’m currently rereading to my 7-year-old-daughter), C.S. Lewis, Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle, Nancy Drew, and Paule Marshall. More recently, I’ve really enjoyed “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead, “Eleanor and Park” by Raindow Rowell and “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart.

4. What are some things you love to see in a query?

A sense that the writer knows why she’s querying me, has read some of the authors I’ve published and feels an affinity for them, and also has a good sense of how to pitch a story and hook a reader in a line or two. A good pitch makes you feel so excited to read a book. And a good pitch lets the agent know that the author knows why she wrote her book and why it might be interesting to someone else. It also helps if the writer is well-read in the genre they’re writing in, and knows (and is spot-on about) which successful writers she sits alongside.

5. What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query?

I think the worst thing is wasting an agent’s time, and by that I mean not doing your homework, seeing who that agent is and what they represent. I feel you should only query an agent or an agency if there’s some specific reason you think your book would fit on their list

6. What makes you a great agent?

When I’m excited about a project, I can’t contain my enthusiasm, and want to tell everyone I meet about it--and I think that works to the benefit of the book and the author. I’ve also been a literary scout and an editor, so I feel like I have a good sense of what publishers are looking for, both here and abroad, of how various-sized publishing houses work from the inside, and know how to work with an author to polish a manuscript ahead of submission, which I hope gives my authors a better shot when their book or proposal lands on editors’ desks.

7. Are you an editorial agent?

Yes, absolutely.

8. Character, world, or plot?

Do I really have to choose one?! I think the world is a bonus, but for me you really have to nail character and plot.

9. What do you like to do for fun?

I like to read aloud to my daughters (7 and 3), cook (I’m very good at creative repurposing of leftovers) and bake, hike in the mountains or body-surf at the beach, and do the Sunday Times crossword.

10. Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?

Tea, definitely good strong tea. Or Chai (only the authentic Indian kind)

11. What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you?

Hone your pitch—read the cover copy of the books you see yours sitting alongside and see if you can find a way to describe your story without giving everything away, but setting up the story just enough so that a reader’s curiosity will be piqued, and that even if they’re really, really busy, they won’t be able to resist just dipping in. . .

12. What genres are you drawn to most?

I have a soft spot for coming-of-age and memoir, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what knocks my socks off going forward.

13. Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability?

Emotional connection, and the skill to know how to keep readers engaged and turning the pages—those are the two biggest keys for me.

14. Why did you become an agent?

I think it suits my personality (which is generally pretty outgoing) and feels like the natural next step in a career where I began as a literary scout and then worked as an editor at four different publishers. So much of any career is luck, and timing. I was very lucky when I stumbled on Persepolis, but it also grew out of my admiration of French and my connection to foreign rights, through scouting. What I really loved about scouting was the sense of being an outsider in publishing, and working in a small, intimate office, and where so much of what you did involved personal relationships. I wanted to be an editor, but I also ended up mostly working for big corporations, in an age of massive insecurity, lay-offs and conglomeration—and none of that sat well with me, particularly after I became a parent. The most exciting thing to me about being an agent is getting to wear different hats. It’s rare to be an editor who gets to work on literary and commercial projects, adult and young adult, graphic novels and serious non-fiction, and I was tired of having to fit myself into a relatively small box. As an agent, particularly on the small, boutique agency side, you can really spread your wings, work on the projects that you are most drawn to, and take advantage of the wide range of publishers that are out there. It all feels much closer to my scouting roots, but I also get to bring the skills I learned as an editor to the table. I also feel extremely lucky to get to be affiliated with an agency that, while representing writers of all stripes, is known for championing minority and multicultural authors. And now I get to hopefully make my mark too. I think the greatest reward will be helping an author, who might not have otherwise, reach an editor and find a wide readership.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

0 Annoying and Accurate Writing Advice by Simon P. Clark

This week, we welcome Simon P. Clark to the blog. Simon's debut novel, TELL THE STORY TO ITS END was released in the US last month. Today, he's talking about the writing advice we love to ignore, and why it's harder than it looks.

Annoying and Accurate Writing Advice by Simon P. Clark

The more I write and publish, the more I realise how wonderfully subjective this whole thing is. What works for one person can be frustrating and creativity-sucking for another, and even some of the classics - 'show don't tell', 'write what you know' - are worth taking with a heart-busting doss of salt. There's really only one piece of writing advice I've ever heard that's struck me as universally true. It comes from Neil Gaiman, and (in one form or another), it's this: keep writing. It sounds simple, but it's not.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

4 The Beauty of Readers and What Authors Have to Remember

I went down to YALLFEST with the YA Series Insiders (, which is our sister site dedicated to all things series and supporting reader engagement. For those of you who don't know, YALLFEST is an incredible book festival in Charleston, South Carolina that brings together about 65 New York Times Bestselling YA authors and about 4,000 fans for a day and a half of panels and signings. I also did writing panels on the Friday before the YALLFEST events and on Sunday at the Charleston library after the events.

As an author, getting to hang out with readers like this is incredible. You get to see what books mean to teens, and there's nothing more beautiful than a young reader who is literally starry-eyed when speaking about your characters--or those of another author. Readers bring so much to each book they read, and it's fascinating to see what they found within the pages of a book that connected to their own lives.

As authors, we think of books as things we give ourselves, the products of our own creative efforts. But they are more than that. They are gifts we give our readers, and sometimes those readers give back to us more than we could ever have imagined.

That's why we write, isn't it? To connect? To inspire? To let someone feel.

It's impossible not to love the readers who love our books. Meeting even a few of those in person can truly make you remember why you do this. And they make it all worthwhile!

In short, this is a love letter to readers. Thank you for reading my books, or anyone else's. Thank you for bringing characters into your hearts and bringing them to life!



Monday, November 16, 2015

9 New Release Giveaway PLUS Author Interviews for the week of 11/16

After the riches of last week, we only have one book to give away this week, but it's a great one: NYT bestselling author Christopher Pike's highly anticipated STRANGE GIRL. Enjoy reading through the other books releasing this week, and enjoy the rest of your November!

Happy Reading!
Lindsey, Martina, Sam, Jocelyn, Erin, Lisa, Shelly, Susan, Elizabeth, Kristin, Sandra and Anisaa

Sunday, November 15, 2015

1 Nancy Ohlin, author of CONSENT, on how writing an entire book is kind of like a marriage

We're excited to have Nancy Ohlin join us to share more about her latest novel CONSENT.

Nancy, what was your inspiration for writing CONSENT?

CONSENT began as a cautionary tale about teacher-student relationships, prompted by a bad experience I'd had in high school. But as I wrote, the novel evolved into something more. Over my very strong objections, Bea and Dane insisted on falling in love, and their story got a lot more complicated. “Complicated” was what I needed, though. It was in that moral gray area where I was able to stretch my wings as a writer and really explore the controversial subject of sexual consent.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why?

It was really hard for me to write that first sex scene. Part of me was very judgy about the whole thing, and I had to rein that in and just allow the two of them to be together. But once I let go of the judgment, the scene flowed.

0 Charlotte Huang, author of FOR THE RECORD, on pushing yourself to finish something

We're thrilled to have Charlotte Huang here to tell us more about her debut FOR THE RECORD.

Charlotte, how long did you work on FOR THE RECORD?

Well this is misleading, but the time between starting to write it and going on submission to editors was probably about seven months. But because my husband and many of our friends work in various aspects of the music industry, I had been gathering information for years. Even if it wasn’t intentional with the thought of writing a book one day, it was easily accessible when I needed it.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Hmm, without giving anything away, I have to say that the big, confrontational scenes are always hard for me. It’s hard to force myself to feel those feelings when I don’t have to and I’m also always afraid that they’ll seem overwrought. The scene I’m most proud of is near the end and is, in fact, one of the confrontational scenes!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

0 Suzanne Nelson, author of SERENDIPITY'S FOOTSTEPS, on pushing through her doubts

We're delighted to have Suzanne Nelson here to tell us more about her latest novel SERENDIPITY'S FOOTSTEPS.

Suzanne, what was your inspiration for writing SERENDIPITY'S FOOTSTEPS? 

This novel was born of many stories. The characters of Dalya, Pinny, and Ray lived in a corner of my mind for years before they were put to paper. In one of the earliest stages of brainstorming, I tried to make Pinny and Ray sisters by birth, but that story line didn't work. I wanted to write about the choice Dalya faces, of denying or embracing her faith and heartbreaking past, but didn't originally see how she connected to Ray and Pinny. It was the three characters' connection to the pale pink shoes that finally made the idea and writing "click." I have my sister to thank for that. For years, each time I passed lost shoes in the street or dangling from telephone wires, I wondered why they'd been left. There was one red slingback that sat on a boulder in front of a house in my home town for months. Whenever I drove passed it, I found it haunting my thoughts. Then my sister--an avid shoe-lover and my best friend--suggested that I write a story for all of those lost shoes. My sister was the real inspiration for the novel and the reason why Serendipity's Footsteps was finally born.

0 Jenna Helland, author of THE AUGUST 5, on creating a disaster area when writing a first draft

We're thrilled to have Jenna Helland join us to share more about her latest novel THE AUGUST 5.

Jenna, what was your inspiration for writing THE AUGUST 5?

I’ve always been fascinated by Thomas Paine and the era of political pamphlets. I imagined living in a time when I couldn’t get information from the Internet and instead I had to rely on the written word. In societies where newspapers are so powerful and necessary, journalists can become political targets, and that’s what I wanted to explore. I started by writing newspaper articles by Gavin Baine, and those developed into the novel.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I love to begin writing in the early morning before the sun rises. My perfect writing session is when I have my window open, my fan on, and my cat in my lap. For a lot of years, I didn’t have a study so I had to write in the garage. Now I have my own room with a window, which is a lot nicer.

0 Zoë Marriott, author of DARKNESS HIDDEN, on taking responsibility for what you put on the page

DARKNESS HIDDEN is book two of the Name of the Blade series, and we're excited to have Zoë Marriott with us to chat about writing.

Zoë, what's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

My writing ritual has changed drastically over the years. I used to work thirty hours a week while also being a full-time carer for my father. My ritual was just to scribble into a notebook, as fast as I could, any where and any time that I had a spare minute - on the bus to work, in the breakroom in the office, in the hospital waiting room, etc. - and then type it up and revise it in the evenings or on Sundays.

A few years ago I was made redundant, but thanks to a generous writing grant from the Royal Literary Fund, I didn't have to look for another job right away. Then very sadly my father passed away. So in the past couple of years I've actually become a full time writer for the first time, and this has meant I've needed to try to develop good writing habits and a proper routine. At first I worked twelve hour days because I could, and often seven days a week. But I had a bit of a health wake-up call last year and it made me reassess things.

Friday, November 13, 2015

2 Go Where It's Scary - Into the Abyss of the Hero's Journey: A Friday the 13th Craft Post by S.P. Sipal

Happy Friday the 13th! But we usually don't think of this date as a happy one, do we? No, we associate Friday the 13th with dark places and scary events. And that darkness and fear is a very necessary part of being human...and telling a story.

Years ago, whenever I was creatively procrastinating upon a tough job at work, or doing my best to avoid a task that involved conflict, a guy in my office would give me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten in life: Go where it’s scary.

The only way to work through the problem, to get to the other side, is to face it head-on. Whimping out and avoiding it, as I liked to do, truly didn’t do me any good. It just prolonged the pain.

I’ve always remembered my colleague’s advice, and that phrase, “Go where it’s scary,” comes to mind whenever I find myself dragging toward something I dread but know I must do. This is especially true with my writing. Being the polite Southern girl that I am, I often hesitate to inflict conflict upon my characters, or even worse, have them confront and deal with their innermost pains and fears.

As in life, confronting and traveling through our fears is an essential part of being human, it’s even more so with our characters, our heroes. And no part of story construction addresses “go where it’s scary” more directly than the approach to the innermost cave of the Hero’s Journey.

The Hero's Journey

The Hero’s Journey and its Abyss, or Inmost Cave, is a concept described within Joseph Campbell’s groundbreaking The Hero With a Thousand Faces. A comparative mythologist, Campbell studied myths separated by continents, centuries, and cultures and discovered that most shared a basic framework, the hero’s quest, which he broke down into 17 steps. Christopher Vogler, a scriptwriter and film producer, simplified Campbell’s work into 12 steps in The Writer’s Journey, making it more accessible to writers and the film industry. Campbell’s and Vogler’s Journey have been used in storytelling in everything from Star Wars to About a Boy to Harry Potter to insertyourowntitlehere.

At the heart of the Hero’s Journey is the sending forth of the hero from his home clan to begin a series of trials and temptations that lead to his victory over their adversaries, which culminates in his triumphant return with a reward that enriches the clan as a whole. You can see why this basic story structure would have primordial appeal to the human psyche — it is how any human unit, whether that unit be a clan, a family, or a nation — has survived and prospered throughout millennia.

The Abyss:

The Abyss is the point in this journey where the heroine approaches her most intense conflict, her Ordeal. It is in the innermost cave that she must face and conquer both her outward foe and her own personal demons. Cave analogy harkens back to our days when the darkest places we had to fear held deadly creatures that often lurked deep in the places we called our homes. The abyss, or underworld, was the place of loss, where all bodies must eventually travel…that final, unknowable journey.

Whether in the underground, snake-filled “Well of Souls” where Indiana Jones recovers the ark but loses it to the Nazis, or the lonely, cave-like home of Will Freeman in About a Boy where Will must confront the emptiness of his life, to the underground chamber beneath Hogwarts where Harry confronts Voldemort and the loss of his parents in Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone — modern storytellers are still going underground/deep into their cave to set their Ordeal.

In the abyss, the hero meets death and triumphs over his deepest fears, which symbolizes his death to his old life and resurrection to the new. Victory is won — whether that triumph is achieved through vanquishing the antagonist or through atonement with his Shadow. Or, as Joseph Campbell said, “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Real Life:

And if our hero can do it in a story, then we can do it in real life. We live vicariously through our hero’s success. If done well, when the book is closed or the movie concluded, we then feel equipped to go back into our life and confront our own demons and monsters. This is the heart of catharsis, and this is why the bestselling books and best remembered movies are those where the hero triumphs over a tremendous obstacle with deep, personal ramifications. It does not matter whether those obstacles are pitched on the intensely personal level or the high-stakes world-wide scale.

As writers, we must remember to send our heroine into the heart of fear. She must go where it’s scariest for her to venture, face those fears head-on, triumph and be forever changed. Only in this way can she return to her world to enrich her clan and ultimately we the writer and our reader.

What abyss have you or your character recently faced and conquered?

Picture credits: National Geographic, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces and Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

About the Author:
S.P. Sipal

Born and raised in North Carolina, Susan Sipal had to travel halfway across the world and return home to embrace her father and grandfather’s penchant for telling a tall tale. After having lived with her husband in his homeland of Turkey for many years, she suddenly saw the world with new eyes and had to write about it.

Perhaps it was the emptiness of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus that cried out to be refilled, or the myths surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis, but she’s been writing stories filled with myth and mystery ever since.

Website | Twitter | Amazon

Thursday, November 12, 2015

1 Agent Jen Hunt of the Booker Albert Literary Agency on Setting Trends, Character Building, and Rosebud Teacups

Jen Hunt graduated from the University of Reno, Nevada with an English Literature degree and an
unholy fascination with Victorian literature, although contrary to popular belief, she doesn't wear a corset. She does drink way too much coffee and enjoys watching the BBC. Another remake of a Jane Austen classic? Game on! Also happens to be a huge Bioware fangirl - when she has enough time for gaming.

While Jen doesn’t want to limit herself, she is actively seeking

· Historicals – where the characters actually fit in the era. Historical romance, time travels, fantasy, inspirational, paranormal. (Nothing past the 1940s)

· Science Fiction – must include world building and well detailed environments. (Prefer a hint of romance)
· Fantasy – same as above
· Steampunk/gaslight/ Dieselpunk - would also prefer some romantic element.
I will consider a YA in these areas but no sex, rape, or drug abuse (or abuse of any kind).

You can connect with Jen here: 

Twitter: @Jen_Corkill


Are you an editorial agent?

Yes. My background is in editing and I find I have pretty high standards even before I would consider sending out a manuscript to publishers. Why send out something right away when you can hone and tighten it up and send it out a few months later? If an author is looking for immediate turn around, I am not your girl. I like strong POVs, no head hopping, flushed out environments, and characters that feel real to me. I fear that is why I only have one client as of yet.

Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?

How are any of those lovely nectars vices? Obsessions might be a better term to engage in this case. I have an industrial coffee pot and a cabinet full of tea. Usually, just to be decedent and posh, I roll out my tea set and fill the creamer and sugar jar. Why be bland? Everything tastes better in a rosebud tea cup, right?

Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability?

I don't chase fashions. I will take on a project if I fall in love with an author's voice and vision. If your concept is in a bookstore, I don't want it. Anyone can follow trends. Why fit in? Set trends, shine brilliantly among the dull grays and browns.

Why did you become an agent?

I became an agent because previously, working as an Acquisitions Editor for a small publisher, I was a step in an author's journey. A notch in their post without breakfast the next morning. While I reveled in their later success, I eventually came to the conclusion I want to be with them every step of the way. I hope to be that friend that will encourage, push, scold, and inspire an author through the creative maelstrom.

Character, world, or plot?

Arg, you mean I have to pick just one? Is this a snog, marry, or push off a cliff game? Idealistically I want them all but for a reader to be pulled into a story, characters are the key. Why? They are the ones we relate to, fall in love with, strive to emulate, and despise with all our essence. Strong character building makes words jump off a page into our imaginations where they wake up early and make us cookies. Like many, I have fangirled over a literary character, wishing just for a split second they brew breath. Make them real and that's where the adventure truly begins.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

0 Rock Climbing and Writing: Taking Characters to New Heights by Diana Renn

Today we're welcoming Diana Renn to the blog, to talk about character development... the active way. Diana's BLUE VOYAGE was published October 13th of this year.

Monday, November 9, 2015

14 SEVEN New Release Giveaways PLUS Author Interviews for the week of 11/9

We have SO many amazing books to give away this week! There are sixteen amazing new releases to be picked up to soften the blow of winter temperatures arriving in the northern hemisphere.

Happy Reading!
Lindsey, Martina, Sam, Jocelyn, Erin, Lisa, Shelly, Susan, Elizabeth, Kristin, Sandra and Anisaa

Sunday, November 8, 2015

1 E. Katherine Kottaras, author of HOW TO BE BRAVE, on following the call that asks you to write

We're delighted to have E. Katherine Kottaras here to share more about her debut novel HOW TO BE BRAVE.

What was your inspiration for writing HOW TO BE BRAVE?

Though the story is not autobiographical, much of it is “true” in the sense that it was written after a difficult period of my life. I lost my father when I was seventeen and my mother when I was thirty. After my mother passed away when my daughter was ten months old, I found myself sandwiched between the death of my best friend and the presence of this new life. It was a dark and confusing time – I wanted to drown in my grief but also knew I had to keep myself afloat for the sake of my new baby. That’s when I turned to writing. On my darkest days, my husband would tell me to take time for myself – to go for walks, yoga, etc. – but more often than not, I would find myself at the library, writing. The act of writing was a way for me to work through my own grief and to also find new purpose my life.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

0 Sean Williams, author of HOLLOWGIRL, on encouraging readers to be easier on themselves

HOLLOWGIRL is the final book in the Twinmaker series, and we're delighted to have Sean Williams with us to share more about it.

Sean, how long did you work on HOLLOWGIRL?

It took me a little over a year to write Hollowgirl, but really I’d been thinking about it ever since I sold the series, way back when. The beginning of every story determines the end, and I’ve always known pretty much how the final moments between Clair and Q would unfold, but there were so many details to get exactly right, and as the book started to take shape I quickly realised just how incredibly difficult it was going to be. This was easily the hardest book I’ve ever written, and the most rewarding. Seeing it all unfold was almost magical. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

0 Amy Engel, author of THE REVOLUTION OF IVY, on deciding to set aside a novel

THE REVOLUTION OF IVY is the sequel to THE BOOK OF IVY, and we're excited to have Amy Engel join us to chat about writing.

Amy, how long did you work on THE REVOLUTION OF IVY?

All told, it took me about three months (maybe a little less) to write REVOLUTION. And it was a pretty clean first draft so there wasn’t copious editing I had to do before I turned it in to my editor. I always knew the story would pick up immediately after the end of the first book and I knew how the series would end. But I figured out the rest as I went along, which is how I write all my books.

0 Barnabas Miller, author of THE GIRL WITH THE WRONG NAME, on learning about perseverance

We're thrilled to have Barnabas Miller here to tell us more about his latest novel THE GIRL WITH THE WRONG NAME.

Barnabas, what was your inspiration for writing THE GIRL WITH THE WRONG NAME?

I think there are always multiple sources of inspiration when a story first takes shape, whether it’s something you read, or certain people in your life who’ve made an indelible impression, or a kind of story you’ve always wanted to tell. In this case, I will say that, while all of the above played a role, there was a member of my family whose real life experience became the seed for the story. I will leave it exactly that vague for fear of revealing too much!

Friday, November 6, 2015

0 Ask a Pub Pro: Ryan Graudin on Craft Aides, Romance, and Writing Alternate History

Please welcome author Ryan Graudin to the blog today! Ryan joins us to answer your questions for our Ask a Pub Pro column, sharing her thoughts on how to learn the craft of writing, guidelines for writing an alternate history, and questions regarding marketability. She's also celebrating the release of her new book, Wolf By Wolf. Be sure to check it out below!

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Ryan Graudin Answers Your Ask a Pub Pro Questions:

1) In developing your own writing skills, which have you found to be more useful? Writing books? Workshops? Critique partners? None of the above? I don't have a lot of money to spend and would love to know where to get the most bang for my buck.

I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to write, so I had the good fortune of taking lots of writing classes/workshops from high school on. That being said, you should not have to spend lots of money (or any at all) in order to hone your writing skills. Reading is the most important tool! The more books you read, the more your brain automatically ingests the structure of stories and narrative! Even after years and years of practice, I can automatically see improvement in my own writing if I’m reading a really amazing book. Another thing I consider essential in the writing process is feedback. Critique partners, beta readers, workshop groups, editors… you need those extra eyes if you really want your writing to shine. You shouldn’t have to pay for the first two. CPs and beta readers can be found pretty easily on websites like and

2) I'm writing an alternative reality historical and am not sure what the accepted norm is for how much to deviate from the true history. Are there general accepted guidelines for how much of the story can deviate from history vs how much to keep true?

What a timely question! My alternate history novel Wolf By Wolf just made its way out into the world! In terms of guidelines, there’s no hard and fast rule out there. I would say the most important thing to keep in mind while writing alternate history is that you have to make your world believable, or at least, help your reader suspend their disbelief. Think about the implications of the historical events you’ve changed; both large scale and small. My take on alternate history was to envision a world where the Axis Powers won WWII. In order to do this effectively, I had to research not just the time period, but the hypotheticals surrounding it. The theories of military strategists on how Hitler could have defeated the Allies. I also had to do a lot of research on Hitler’s vision for the world once he won—a New Order that, thank God, never came to pass. I then had to take what I knew and weave it into my narrative in a way that would make sense to the reader. As long as you allow your reader to believe in the world you’ve created, you’re doing your job! Deviate away!

3) For a YA to sell well, does it have to have a strong romance? Can a relationship based on best friends or siblings sell well?

I love exploring relationships between siblings and best friends! I think the reason romance is so popular in YA is because that being a teen usually involves a romance/infatuation of some kind. (I know it did for me!) That being said, don’t write something into your story just because you think it will help the book sell. Teens can tell when you’re being disingenuous. Write the book you want to read, and chances are that teens are going to want to read it too!

4) I've been working three years on a YA dystopian that I love! Now, that I'm almost ready to submit, I hear no one wants them. Is this true? A critique partner suggested I try to switch it to an alien scifi. I think I could do it, but would that help its marketability any?

Unfortunately, I do think that most agents and publishers are avoiding dystopian. This often happens when the market gets too glutted with a single genre. For a dystopian to do well now, it would have to have a really, truly strong and original hook.

Go with your gut on this one. If you feel that alien scifi is the way you need to take the story, then go for it. If you feel that you love the story so much and don’t want to change it, then keep it the way it is. Changing a story just so it will be marketable has rarely worked out in authors’ favors.

About the Book:
Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, they host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The prize? An audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele's twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and stay true to her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

Ryan Graudin grew up in Charleston and graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Creative Writing in 2009. She is the author of Wolf By Wolf, The Walled City and the All That Glows series. She resides near Charleston with her husband and wolf-dog. You can find her online at

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers

Thursday, November 5, 2015

0 Agent Sue Miller of Donaghy Literary Group on Simplicity, Tone, and Tiffany's!

Sue Miller comes to Donaghy Literary with enthusiasm and experience in the industry. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from York University in Toronto, as well as a certificate in publishing, from Ryerson University. Sue previously worked in children's publishing with Scholastic Canada. Upon connecting with publisher, Fernanda Viveiros, of Fidalgo Books, she was asked to host the Luso Reading Vox series at Dundas West Fest in Toronto. After spending time with these authors, she realized that representing an author and their work is exactly where she wanted her publishing career to be.

Sue began her career with DLG as an intern before moving into the role of Associate Agent. Prior to joining DLG, Sue interned for Bree Ogden during her time at the D4EO agency. She dabbles in writing and has edited short stories for other writers. An admitted social media junkie, Sue is always interested in the latest platforms for networking and relationship building within the industry. This led her to complete her Digital Marketing Management certificate from the University of Toronto. When it comes to her genre preferences, Sue is partial to romance, young adult, new adult and adult contemporary novels.

Sue is seeking new and exciting voices as she begins to build her client list.

She is excited to discover diverse new author voices.

And now the interview!

1. What is it about a manuscript that excites you?

A manuscript excites me when I see a fully realized main character arc and overall journey. Organic storytelling and characters are my favourite. Everything happens for a reason, not just to move the plot along. There is a difference here.

2. What is on your wish list?

I’m really craving YA books infused with diversity. Universal stories told from different perspectives.

My wish list includes YA, Contemporary Fiction, and Romance. (No thanks to anything historical).

3. What are some things you love to see in a query?

I like my queries to be simple - a paragraph (blurb) to introduce the project, and a paragraph about the author. Donaghy Literary Group additionally asks for a short synopsis, along with the first ten pages of the manuscript. The first ten pages are critical to the query because it allows us to see a sample of the writing. A good writer will set the tone of the overall book in these first 10 pages.

4. What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query?
The worst things I’ve seen are queries without the first 10 pages! Not reading our submissions guidelines and not reading about the agent your submitting to in order to make sure your manuscript is a good fit. Also, not knowing my name. I’ve received queries addressed to completely random names.

Lastly, long queries with grandiose ideas and sweeping generalizations that have me lost before I even read the actual query.

5. Character, world, or plot?

For the most part, I like my manuscripts to be character driven. Create your character along with the journey they are about to take, and you’ll see that the world and plot will follow. All three intertwine to create the magic of a great story.

6. Can you define voice for us?

Voice is the tone or writing style that is unique and identifiable to the author. It stands out. In an omniscient POV the “voice” of the novel is the author’s. When we get into a first person POV (which is popular in YA) the “voice” of the novel is synonymous with the protagonist’s “voice” along with the writing style of the author. In any scenario, the “voice” of the novel is critical to the experience and enjoyment of the reader.

For example, when I think of Rainbow Rowell, I immediately think of her distinct contemporary literary voice, which she is famous for.

7. What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you?

Make sure your project is complete and has been edited by an editor. Keep your query as simple and to the point as possible. Impress me with your command of the English language in your project not your query. It must be to the point. Did I say to the point? Don’t forget to tell me where you are in your writing career. Have you been published? Are you a debut author? Both are equally important and interesting to me.

8. What genres are you drawn to most?

I love, love YA.

9. Why did you become an agent?

I became an agent, because while working with authors I realized that I could be a great advocate for emerging talent in the literary world. Discovering new projects and seeing them through the stages towards publishing is intoxicating. Interning at DLG solidified my decision to be an agent. I’m lucky to be a part of such a collaborative and intelligent business team!

10. Is there anything you'd like to add that you think our readers should know?

Fun fact: I worked at luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co., in my university days and saw some pretty amazing romantic situations happen. I would love to see a fresh romantic twist with Tiffany’s as a backdrop!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

0 On Self-Confidence in Writing by Lisa Maxwell

Today, we're welcoming Lisa Maxwell to the blog, to talk about a very elusive concept that is so important to the way we create: self-confidence. Lisa's second novel, GATHERING DEEP was released on October 8th, and her third, THE STARS TURNED AWAY will be published in February.

On Self-Confidence in Writing by Lisa Maxwell

The thing that I struggle with more than anything else is self-confidence. Like a lot of other writers, I’m an introvert. Putting myself out there is probably one of my least favorite things to do. Maybe there was a point, right when I was about to finish my PhD, where I actually felt sure of myself enough to be truly confident in the future I had ahead of me. I’d worked my behind off for six long years, went above and beyond doing all the things a good grad student who wanted a job could do, and thought for sure that I’d finally done enough. I was so sure of myself and my prospects, I bought two suits and a plane ticket to California (where the interviews were going to be that year). And then… the economy tanked, there were no jobs, and I had a non-refundable ticket to California that I didn’t need. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like more of a failure, more unworthy in my entire life.

Strangely enough, that failure led to me to writing, maybe it was because that failure freed me in a way. I’d always thought, for whatever reason, that if I just did enough, worked hard enough, I could prove myself. I could eventually be as successful as I wanted to be. Not getting a job after my degree was a huge disappointment, but it was also a huge revelation. There I was, jobless, without any real career prospects in the industry I’d spent almost a decade training myself for. I’d done everything right, and it didn’t work. All the hard work in the world wasn’t enough to counteract a pitiful economy and constricting education sector I found myself in a completely novel position (for me, at least)— and the thing was, it wasn’t really about me.

From the time I declared my major as English, I spent years telling people that I didn’t want to write books. I just wanted to read them. To be honest, I never thought I did. I never thought I could. Writers were people way more talented than I could ever possibly be.

Looking back, I realize now that I was just afraid. I was afraid of not being able to write as well as the authors I so admired. I was afraid of being a failure, of not being good enough. But over-educated and underemployed,aAll those fears I’d had for so many years about writing didn’t matter at that point—I was already at the bottom, career-wise. I was in a place where I had nothing left to lose.

There was a strange kind of freedom in that.

I wrote my first book, because I needed to. I needed stories in my life, even though I wasn’t taking or teaching classes. I needed beautiful words and the escape that literature had always provided me, so I decided to try making it. And then to my utter surprise, it worked. I found out that I loved writing stories even more than I loved reading. I discovered that I was pretty decent at writing them, and that I wanted to keep writing them.

When I first started writing, I was writing with the kind of desperation that comes from having your dreams dashed. Maybe it’s because when I first started, I didn’t really think the whole publishing a book thing would work. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I didn’t believe getting published would happen as quickly as it did for me. I expected to fail…a lot. I expected to finish books, only to box them up and store them away because they weren’t ready yet. I wrote with an almost complete lack of expectations for myself or the work, but not without hope. Something about that combination did work, though. Maybe it was because for the first time I wasn’t worried about being good enough. I was just concerned with the work itself.

Then, all of a sudden, I had a 2-book contract. All of a sudden, I was an author.

Right about then, I think the fears about being good enough started to rear their ugly heads again: was the book good enough? Was I doing enough to promote it? Could the next book be better? Did I deserve to be considered an author? Was I really enough to be a “real” author?

Those fears never really go away, it seems. There’s always someone writing better, getting a bigger deal, doing a better job of promoting. There are always multiple somebodies who look like they have this author thing down, that they are in control. And the more I see that, the more I struggle with my own self-doubt.

Four books later, I’m not sure I feel like a “real” author, whatever that means. Writing—and especially being paid for my writing—still seems like this miracle I fell into when things were at their worst—a complete surprise and an amazing gift. But when it comes to the business side, it’s so easy for self doubt to creep in. Those old fears of being enough—especially now that I know that, sometimes, all the hard work in the world won’t be enough.

I’m working on my fourth contracted book now, a book that I’ve outlined and am so excited about. A book that my publisher has approved and is also excited about. And even with all that excitement, the old fears come creeping back. Can I make this what I want it to be? Will what I do with the book be enough to make it popular? To make others like it? Am I good enough to write this story? Who am I to think I could write this story?

No surprise, the fear of not being enough has done a number on me. The writing is going excruciatingly slow right now. I know these characters, and I love their story, but all of those doubts are back, creeping in again and making writing harder than its been in a while. I’ve been letting my struggles with self-confidence get in my way, and I have to keep reminding myself to go back to the page, back to the words. I have to make myself try to remember that time when I was writing with nothing left to lose, a time when all that mattered was the work, because whatever happens—I have the work itself, and that always is enough. Even when it’s at its hardest.

About the Book

When Chloe Sabourin wakes in a dark, New Orleans cemetery with no memory of the previous days, she can hardly believe the story her friends tell her. They say Chloe was possessed by a witch named Thisbe, who had used the darkest magic to keep herself alive for over a century. They tell her that the witch is the one responsible for the unspeakable murders that nearly claimed the life of Chloe's friend, Lucy. Most unbelievable of all, they say that Thisbe is Chloe’s own mother. As she struggles with this devastating revelation and tries to rebuilt her life, Chloe wants nothing to do with the magic that corrupted her mother…especially since she feels drawn to it.

Now, a new series of ritualistic killings suggests that Thisbe is plotting again, and Chloe is drawn unwillingly back into the mystical underworld of the French Quarter. To stop Thisbe before she kills again, Chloe and her friends must learn what they can from the mysterious Mama Legba. But when her boyfriend Piers vanishes, Chloe will have to risk everything and embrace her own power to save the one person she has left… even if that means bringing down her mother.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest (Flux), Gathering Deep (Flux, 2015) and The Stars Turned Away (Simon Pulse, 2016). When she's not writing books, she teaches English at a local college. She lives near DC with her very patient husband and two not-so patient boys.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

5 Attention Aspiring Writers: Read This and Cut a Year or Two Off Your Road to Pub

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a new writer in possession of a book idea must be in want of answers about how to get published, to paraphrase Jane Austen. And the truth is, even Jane was no stranger to rejection. A publisher not-very graciously turned down her first manuscript, despite the offer to publish "at the Author's expense." Her next novel sold and never published at all. She was 36 when she saw her first book in print, and she'd been writing since her teens.

Writing isn't easy. There aren't any shortcuts. There's no right way to write a novel.

But there are wrong ways, not to mention mistakes that we all make as we're starting out. I can't speak for Jane, but I can tell you that I just read a craft book that would have saved me quite a bit of time had I had it in my hands when I first got serious about writing.

Beth Revis is the New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series. She's also one of the smartest, savviest marketers I know, so when she wrote a book of writing advice, I looked forward to reading it about the way I look forward to a good creme brûlée. Which is to say, a lot. I know Beth wasn't going to tell people the only way to write a book, because she'll be the first person to tell you that the way to write a book is your way. I also knew that she would be brutally honest, and I knew that in addition to a trilogy with a major publisher that debuted on the New York Times list, she has indie-dubbed, and also written something in the vicinity of ten books she didn't sell. She knows of which she speaks.

PAPER HEARTS: SOME WRITING ADVICE is a fantastic resource, whether you're a new writer starting out, a writer who's struggling to finally breath through, or a published author continuing to focus on craft and doing things in a smarter way.

My second book came out last week with a major publisher, and I've been blogging about writing for years. I learned a LOT from reading Beth's book.

  • Additional ways to get inspired and keep my confidence
  • New plotting techniques
  • That we all need validation and that it's not selfish to want to write
  • A lesson or two about professional jealousy and comparison
  • How to define high concept and how to put it in perspective
  • The difference between telling, showing, and good showing
  • Making stronger, more likable characters
  • Never trust absolutes
  • There's more than one way to get published

And the best part? I enjoyed reading PAPER HEARTS. It's written in a clear, easy, no-nonsense style that makes you feel like you're sitting down with a friend to talk writing over coffee.

You want this book. Trust me on this.

by Beth Revis

Bird by Bird meets Save the Cat in this new writing advice book by NY Times bestselling author Beth Revis. With more than 100000 reads on Wattpad for the previous edition, this newly expanded and rewritten edition features 350 pages of content, including charts and a detailed appendix. ~~~  Your enemy is the blank page. When it comes to writing, there’s no wrong way to get words on paper. But it’s not always easy to make the ink flow. Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice won’t make writing any simpler, but it may help spark your imagination and get your hands back on the keyboard.  Practical Advice Meets Real Experience With information that takes you from common mistakes in grammar to detailed charts on story structure, Paper Hearts describes: -How to Develop Character, Plot, & World -What Common Advice You Should Ignore -What Advice Actually Helps -How to Develop a Novel -The Basics of Grammar, Style, & Tone -Four Practical Methods of Charting Story Structure -How to Get Critiques and Revise Your Novel -How to Deal with Failure …And much more!  BONUS! More than 25 “What to do if…” scenarios to help writers navigate problems in writing from a NY Times Bestselling author who’s written more than 2 million words of fiction.

Buy on Barnes & NobleBuy on Amazon

Monday, November 2, 2015

10 TWO Giveaways plus New Releases and Author Interviews for week of 2nd November

Are we the only ones who can't believe it's November already? It seems crazy that the year is drawing to a close and a new one is right around the corner. To ease the blow, this week we're giving away a copy of THE REVOLUTION OF IVY and HOLLOW GIRL (U.S. Only).

Happy Reading!
Lindsey, Martina, Sam, Jocelyn, Erin, Lisa, Shelly, Susan, Elizabeth, Kristin, Sandra and Anisaa

Sunday, November 1, 2015

0 This Month for Writers - October 2015

Now that Halloween has passed, we've found ourselves in November and at the beginning of the NaNoWriMo marathon. For those participating - good luck! We hope you exceed your writing goals - even if that goal is simply to write more words than you had yesterday.

This month, our attention was captured by sneak peeks into writers' lives, many discussions of diversity, and treating our writing careers like start up businesses. Read on!

1 Martina Boone, author of PERSUASION, on rewarding yourself at every step of the process

We're especially overjoyed to have Martina Boone here today. As the founder and manager of Adventures in YA Publishing, she's a regular face around these parts, but it's extra special to have her on the other side of the interview desk to chat about PERSUASION, the second book in her Heirs of Watson Island series.

Martina, what was your inspiration for writing PERSUASION?

Since it’s the second book in the series, the biggest inspiration was a deadline and a contract, but I already had the story and characters arcs in mind. I knew what needed to happen in the middle book, and how that was going to advance the overall plot of the trilogy. I also knew that I needed to explore Cassie’s individual story and reveal the reason she is how she is. But where the story took off for me is when I discovered Obadiah. He wrote himself, and because I never knew in Persuasion whether he was a good guy or a bad one, hero or villain, he kept me eager to write. Another thing that fueled the story for me was the kidnapping of the school girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram. This helped inform the research into women’s rights, into slavery—both past and present—and the rape culture. I call the books in this series popcorn with vitamins. You can enjoy them as a gothic romance, but there is also a layer of history and issues that are important to me that resulted in the eight page learning guide that goes with the book. (You can find that on my website.)

0 Alexander Yates, author of THE WINTER PLACE, on getting to know characters through their grief

We're delighted to have Alexander Yates join us to share more about his latest novel THE WINTER PLACE.

Alexander, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

At the opening of The Winter Place, my two young characters are orphaned (not a spoiler—it happens early), and I found that the chapters immediately following that traumatic event were very difficult to write. Part of me was tempted to skip ahead by a month or two, to a point when some of the shock might have worn off for them. But it was important to me as a writer (and to the plot) that I stick with the characters in that moment. Grief is such an intense and personal experience, and I thought that if I didn’t get to know who my characters were at the depths of their grief, then I’d never understand them at all.

And it wasn’t just the grief—capturing their shock, too, was a real challenge. Sometimes people can become dissociated in the moments immediately following a tragedy. I wanted to capture that feeling of dislocation, without making these kids look like sociopaths who didn’t care that their father had just died.

0 Daniel Kraus, author of THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH, on removing the last sentence

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH, VOLUME ONE: AT THE EDGE OF EMPIRE is not only a mouthful, it's also the latest novel from Daniel Kraus, who we're excited to have with us.

Daniel, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Well, there's a scene near the end of Volume One that everyone is going to assume was the most painful to write, but they'll be wrong. The difficult scenes to write are not necessarily the "difficult" scenes, they're the ones that I've been thinking about for the past twenty years. When you think about a scene that long and suddenly one morning there you are, about to write it, it can be nerve-wracking. How do you know you're really up to it? Will it be all you've hoped? It's a lot of self-created pressure.

0 J.C. Carleson, author of PLACEBO JUNKIES, on connecting the dots between a known beginning and end

We're thrilled to have J.C. Carleson here to share more about her latest novel PLACEBO JUNKIES.

J.C., how long did you work on PLACEBO JUNKIES?

I spent a year writing it, but much of the last few months was tinkering on a fairly small scale to make sure that there was internal consistency and logic – there was much swapping around of chapters and elements, which was a first for me. I knew all along where I wanted to start and how I wanted Audie’s story to end, but it took me an excruciatingly long (and angst-ridden) time to figure out how I was going to connect the dots.